George Bush–along with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz–have led this nation into one of the great disasters of the last century. This war now threatens to become a war between Islam and the West. When Mr. Bush used 9/11 as a pretext for invading Iraq, a nation at peace with the United States, a nation who in no way participated in the attack on New York and the Pentagon, he engendered tribal and religious war and put us unnecessarily in civil strife within Islam. We now know that Mr. Bush had planned for this war against Iraq long before 9/11. When we easily toppled Suddham Hussein’s government, under international law the United States, as an occupying army, became responsible for keeping the peace. Very foreseeably, we simply set loose the tribal and sectarian violence between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish populations in Iraq. In no way was Bush prepared to maintain the peace. He has let loose the hounds of war. No one has any sure-fire successful way to exit this catastrophe he has caused.
Mr. Bush will not be successful in creating a democratic state in the context of the civil war he started. The history of the creation of nation-states in the West, leading to democratic societies in what was previously medieval Christiandom, played out over centuries. After the Treaties of Westphalia and Utrecht ended the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, previously feudal religiously- based nations evolved into secular territorial nation-states. The Enlightenment, experienced in the history of the West, but not in Islam, saw the evolution of these states into secular states. With the exception of modern Turkey, there is no Islamic state with such secularity. We in the West lack the capacity, or the right, to demand such a course for Islam. Such pretentiousness is hubris of the highest order. Only an intellectual and moral moron would attempt such a flight into the sun. Beware the karmic kick-back.
Tragically, the longer the United States remains as an occupying power in Iraq, the more the individuality of what happens in Iraq becomes a war between civilizations. We in the West see our national identity as primary, in the main. Likely we think of ourselves as Americans first, then come tribal and religious and ethnic identities. This is the evolution of the West, from Westphalia and Utrecht to secular territorial and pluralistic natlon- states, our Rule of (secular) Law communities. Islamic communities of the Middle East are among the most ancient and honored civilizations in history. Iraq is uniquely the land of the Bible–Of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Iran represents a modern version of the great Persian Empire. But the dividing lines of these modern states were determined by the English and the French after World War I ended with the Versailles Treaty, which has been aptly named the “Peace to End All Peace.” The victors, after the First World War and then the Second, simply demanded Western rights to oil. After the Second World War, the United States entered into this feeding frenzy for oil and imperial war when England, bankrupted by two world wars in the same century, passed much of their responsibility and so-called rights of oil to us.
The Islamic communities are likely to place their loyalties to the local tribal and familial ties–Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish–and a universal identification with Islam. So powerful populations exist throughout Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan and beyond, which identify with their tribal kin in each of these states, much more profoundly than with the nation-state whose boundaries, after all, were established by Western governments after both world wars. When we toppled Saddam Hussein, these primal loyalties–at the most tribal local level and again at the universal (Islamic) level, of course prevailed, rather than their identity derived from their placement within the boundaries of the state in which they happen to reside. No amount of violence, blood, lives, treasure, will change this. Such change comes about in centuries, not months or years.
Every day we remain in Iraq we lose ground. The United States–and surely Mr. Bush–is now roundly hated throughout the Islamic world and in about every nation in Europe. The dynamics of the most powerful nation in the world and the leader of the West occupying and destroying Iraq simply spreads violence into every state that possesses television, radio, and the internet. The predictable response of Mr. Bush to the war in Lebanon only cements this vision. Mr. Bush’s war against Islam. Israel is the greatest military power is the Middle East, by far. No combination of Arab or Islamic states of the region can match them. But Hezbollah fought them to a stand-still. The world saw the United States supplying Israel. The Israelis had the right of self-defense. But by mimicking Mr. Bush’s plans for war, clearly Hezbollah gained power enormously by the violence used against them. We will face the whirlwind of such violence that Mr. Bush’s war has sown.